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Zimbabwe High Court Postpones Trial of Activists

The trial in Zimbabwe of four supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change has been postponed after their lawyers asked for the Supreme Court to rule whether their detention and alleged torture in secret camps last year was legal.

The four MDC activists, Fidelis Chiramba, Concilia Chinanzavana, Violet Mupfuranhewe and Collen Mutemagawu were allegedly detained by government agents last year. They are accused of recruiting young members of the then-opposition party to undergo military training in Botswana "for the purpose of committing acts of insurgency, banditry, sabotage or terrorism" in Zimbabwe.

But their lawyer, Charles Kwaramba, told VOA that because of the unlawful arrests of the accused, which he says amount to abductions and kidnappings, torture and being denied food while in detention, the defense team wants the Supreme Court to hear the case of the abuses first.

"We want the Supreme Court to say can they be lawfully prosecuted? If the Supreme Court says they cannot then that is the end of the matter. But the Supreme Court can say 'OK, fine, you were tortured. These things happened, your rights were violated, but it does not take away the fact that you also committed an offense,' and they can still say the trial can go on," Kwaramba said.

Kwaramba says the State asked for the postponement so they can study the defense application and respond.

The government of Botswana and the four activists have denied the allegations. The arrests and trial of the activists is one of several issues that has strained relations in Zimbabwe's unity government.